1. The Conversation
Coppola’s 1974 classic starring quintessential badass Gene Hackman turned forty last month. Despite its age, The Conversation still draws you into its edgy, psychological puzzle about surveillance and our voyeuristic habit of always looking (but failing to see). Few films of the last twenty or thirty years can match its depth or moody atmosphere, and that final scene of Harry Caul sitting among the rubble of his home playing a lonesome sax number still devastates.
The Atlantic, also noting the film’s anniversary, recommends The Conversation be required viewing for all NSA employees.
2. Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck’s Great Depression novel turned seventy-five last month. In addition to being one of the great novels set partially in Oklahoma (and being an Okie myself), I’m rereading this bad boy just to be reminded of sentences like these:
And the crops changed. Fruit trees took the place of grain fields, and vegetables to feed the world spread out on the bottoms: lettuce, cauliflower, artichokes, potatoes—stoop crops. A man may stand to use a scythe, a plow, a pitchfork; but he must crawl like a bug between the rows of lettuce, he must bend his back and pull his long bag between the cotton rows, he must go on his knees like a penitent across a cauliflower patch.
3. In Utero, 20th Anniversary Edition
I still remember the night I listened to my friend’s copy of In Utero on my Discman and how even then I thought it was better than Nevermind. I still think In Utero is better than Nevermind, and I still think it’s one of the few grunge records that can hold its own twenty years later. As many critics have noted, In Utero owes much of its raw sound to producer Steve Albini (Pixies, Breeders, PJ Harvey), whom Cobain sought out personally to break away from the glossy, over-produced sound of Nevermind. (Check out the production drama backstory involving DGC and remixed tracks ’cause I’m about to reference that shit.)
The 20th Anniversary Edition comes in several formats and package options. I went with the The 3-LP vinyl set (180 gram vinyl cut at 45 RPMs) that includes in the original album, eight unreleased tracks recorded during the In Utero sessions, and Albini’s original mix for the two singles—”Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies”—the studio remixed and replaced before going into production. While I agree that Albini’s the main reason In Utero sounds so good—he knows how to record drums better than just about any motherfucker on the planet—I still partial to famed R.E.M. producer Scott Litt’s original remixes (click that drama link) of “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” due entirely to the fact that those are the first versions I heard and fell in love with, rendering all other mixes inferior for pure nostalgic reasons.
The new set is pricey set, but it’s great to finally have all mixes, remixes, and unreleased tracks together in one package. More comprehensive review at Pitchfork if you’re into that sort of thing.